Major Gift Kicks Off Field Project at WWU

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- A $1 million gift from Western Washington University alumnus Scott Harrington and his family has helped begin the process of building a modern new multipurpose athletic field at WWU. This project will create a fully lighted and fenced artificial turf play field that is sized for regulation soccer and will serve as the new home of Western's NCAA Division II men's and women's soccer teams.It also will be an important resource for Western recreation program and intramurals.

“This field project is significant of course for Western, we've had a shortage of on-campus field space for some time, and our soccer teams have been playing off-campus for years,” said Lynda Goodrich , director of WWU Athletics. “It will also be a resource for the community. There are currently only two other all-weather turf fields in Bellingham –Orca Field and Civic Stadium – that are regulation-size for soccer. We're thrilled that we'll be able to host other major sporting events at this first-class facility.”

The two Fairhaven fields on south campus near the tennis courts and softball field will be graded to one level, large, dividable turf field. The project will include a scoreboard, team benches and scorer's tables, storage, spectator seating, restrooms and team facilities/locker rooms. In addition, the field will include an extension to enable concurrent and multi-recreational uses such as lacrosse and rugby. The extent of the seating and team facilities will depend on cost estimates as the design process proceeds, as well as the success of additional fundraising efforts.

“Western has played a significant role in my family's lives over the years,” said Harrington, who graduated in 1998 from Western's accounting program and played on the men's NCAA Division II soccer team. “I'm thrilled that we are helping Western build a great new home for its soccer teams. Giving back in this way is truly an honor.”

On April 13, the WWU Board of Trustees unanimously approved a motion by Trustee Ralph Munro to name the field in honor of Scott's father, the late Robert Harrington, in recognition of the family's gift. The field will be formally known as Robert S. Harrington Field.

“The Harrington family has a long philanthropic tradition,” said Stephanie Bowers, WWU vice president of University Advancement. “At WWU alone, they have loyally supported the University's mission for nearly two decades as consistent and significant donors. WWU has benefitted from Scott's insightful and dedicated participation as a member of the Accounting Department's advisory board, and as a volunteer and advocate supporting the soccer program. This gift will permanently enhance the university's intercollegiate and intramural athletic programs.”

In addition to Scott, the Harrington family consists of Scott's brother Mark and their mother Dolores. The family gives through its family foundation, established by Scott and Mark's father Robert, in honor of his parents Mark and Blanche Harrington. The scope of their philanthropy is much broader than their generous giftsto Western. A few examples include:

  • The Harrington Family endowment at Seattle Children's Hospital, which funds craniofacial surgeries for children,
  • Harrington House in Bellevue , a transitional housing facility for pregnant and parenting women (operated by Catholic Community Services),
  • The Robert and Dolores Harrington Endowed Chair at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia , which funds cardiology research, and
  • The Harrington Endowment at University of Pennsylvania , which funds cancer research.

“The contributions of the Harrington family along with the visionary leadership of the Associated Students have combined to move this project forward,” said Bowers. “Data indicates that approximately two-thirds of WWU's student body actively participates in club, intramural or NCAA division II sports. With such strong and growing participation rates, there is an evident need to both expand field space on campus and develop fields that serve multiple purposes.”

Western's Recreation Center Advisory Committee (RCAC) is a group of 10 individuals – six students and four staff – who serve in an advisory capacity to the University in terms of recreation policies and programs, recommendations for facility improvement, and advice on fiscal budgets, fees and use of facilities.

WWU's Master Plan includes commitments for correcting the long-standing problem of insufficient field space. Two fields were lost from construction of new academic facilities on the south quad, and one more was reduced from soccer regulation size to a smaller field when the Chemistry building was built. State capital funding requests for a new field (in both the 2011-2013 and 2013-2015 biennial budgets) have not been prioritized high enough to receive state funding support.

Low market interest rates afforded the Wade King Student Recreation Center an opportunity to refund outstanding bonds – under the direction and advisement of the RCAC – to achieve annual savings and additional dollars to fund a large portion of the multipurpose field project without an increase to the Student Recreation Fee.

The estimated $4.6 million total cost of Harrington Field will be paid for by a hybrid funding model, involving private sources (including the leadership donation from the Harrington family), and funding from the Student Recreation Center bond refinancing. The remainder of the budget will come from a general WWU budget line currently used for off-campus field rental and field maintenance, an expense made unnecessary by the construction of Harrington Field.

Bellingham-based Zervas Group Architects was selected for the design phase. Construction bids will be solicited in early 2013. Western students will serve on a committee to work with the architects on design beginning this month. Groundbreaking is expected for May 2013, and the project's completion is scheduled for November 2013.

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